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African Proverb of the Month
June, 2003

Gaba malusi ne mamvi. (Sumbwa)
Yamekuwa matapishi na mavi. (Swahili)
Like vomit and shit under your feet (the rumormonger spreads scandal).(English)

Sumbwa ( Tanzania ) Proverb

Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

 

This proverb of the Sumbwa people in western Tanzania graphically describes rumormongers who lack all kinds of prudence and are only trouble-makers, not peaceful people at all. They publicly reveal the misbehaviour and misconduct of others especially if the person is of a high level of responsibility or high social level. The gravity of this chatterbox’s behaviour damages the reputation and the human rights of others. Between equals it doesn't bother as much. But when the contempt is of an elder, the weight of the damage is greater. The proverb is used to warn people about damaging the reputation of others.

Biblical Parallels

 

Matthew 12:24 and Mark 3:22-30. Jesus healed a blind-mute. Some Pharisees, angry to hear the crowd's favorable opinions, insulted Jesus: “This one expulse the devils by the power of Beelzebub, Satan Himself!” Jesus replied: “All kinds of sins or blasphemies will be forgiven to human beings, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven in this world and in the world to come.” This blaspheming person destroys himself/herself and his/her own inadequacy..

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

The tremendous publication, via the Internet, of the behaviour of President Bill Clinton of the United States of America' s private delinquencies lacked elementary decency. In USA and elsewhere the media publicize the sexual misconduct of certain prelates and priests of the church to a generation obsessed by sex. Our times have no control over the elementary rights of personal reputations. Some preachers and pastors can “vomit” scandal publicly about suspected persons from their pulpits. This can be an abuse of one’s spiritual power to unduly destroy the reputation of other persons. It is more frequent that we may suppose. This Sumbwa proverb challenges us to use proper speech and make positive comments about other people.

NOTE: See in the Select Bibliography of this website Proverb No. 130 in the Collection of 197 Sumbwa Proverbs (Geita/Kahama Districts around the southern part of Lake Victoria in Western Tanzania). Collected by Joseph Nkumbulwa with the help of Max Tertrais, M. Afr. in conjunction with the Sukuma Research Committee, Bujora, Tanzania. Endangered African Proverbs Collections: A Continuation of the African Proverbs Project. Mwanza, Tanzania: privately printed, April, 1999.

Mr. Joseph Nkumbulwa
c/o Katekista Clementi
Mtaa Butambara,
Nifa Jeneri
S.L.P. 65
Ushirombo, Tanzania

Rev. Max Tertrais, M.Afr.
Kaniha Parish
P.O. Box 896
Uyovu via Kahama, Tanzania

 

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